Sunday, September 11, 2011

NEW Blog!!!

The NEW blog is set and ready to roll! Please join us on our journey at:

http://thepepperedquilt.blogspot.com/

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

King of the Cruciferous Family

I credit Google for this beautiful image.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my new fascination with Brussels Sprouts!

Yes, I know many of you are probably wondering why I am writing about these crazy little green things and not my move from Macon or more important things....

Don't worry. My farewell/welcome world post is not too far off. It's a lot to take in and I want to embrace this time and write about it when I am ready.

So, brussels sprouts.... I posted my excitement on FB a little while ago and a precious friend of mine noted that her sweet family had them last night for dinner.

Yea for being part of the cool crowd! No, seriously, they are a totally hip and beautiful family.

Naturally, my excitement grew and I headed straight to my "World's Healthiest Foods" book and looked'em up. BTW if you do not own this book, please do. It's amazing to read about the foods we eat and the author incorporates recipes that not only taste good but provides optimal cooking methods for retaining the most nutrients. So cool!

Yes, this is my hidden food science fascination. Welcome.

Here are some great tid-bits (from book):

  • when selecting, they should be firm and bright... they no likey wrinkles either
  • they have a very high respiration rate, so it is important to keep them cool... store in a plastic storage bag in fridge, squeezing out any air
  • do not wash before storing
  • avoid overcooking... go for Al Dente (5 minutes in steamer)
  • just like garlic, it is best to let it sit 5-10 minutes after cutting to activate an enzyme called myrosinase (converts plant nutrients into active forms)... heat will cause these enzymes to become inactive if not developed
The health benefits of brussels sprouts are excellent. Go ahead.. google them.

I made some tonight by steaming them and then tossing with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt/pepper. So easy, healthy, quick, and yummy!

Clay made them a few weeks go with bacon and baked in the oven... whoa. Conversion! Try this one for your men. Promise, they'll love it!

Now that I have ranted and raved about nothing but brussels sprouts, I hope you will give'em a try. I always had the notion in my mind that I didn't like them and I was wrong. You may be too if you haven't tried them in a few years or had them overcooked.

Sprouting Out, <-- couldn't resist :)

Danielle

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bye Milk... Hello Strawberries, Red Wine and Parsley

One of the great perks about being married to a man pursing a career in the field of health and wellness is being able to learn with him. I love thinking about about the human body, nutrition, and public health. Learning about these topics allows me to become a critical thinker about my own personal health choices and let's face it, the human body is fascinating!

I can't wait to see what types of conversations Clay and I are going to have at the dinner table. Yea for big unknown words and complex processes!

I know...  Elementary Education? Maybe I'll use it one day.

Any-hoo, tonight, Clay and I had a nice conversation about milk, using some of his Public Health Notes.

Here are a few worthy tid-bits of info (taken from Introduction to Public Health for Chiropractors by Haneline and various notes from Dr. Oppenheim):


• Casein or sodium caseinate is the principle protein of cow's milk. Cow's milk has 20
times as much casein as human milk, which makes it very difficult for humans to
assimilate.

• Many adults (20-40% Caucasians and up to 90% of Africans and Asians) are lactose
intolerant due to the fact that humans gradually lose the lactase activity in their small
intestines between the ages of 1 and 41/2 years of age.


• Usage of cow's milk can lead to allergies, heart disease, colic, cramps, sinusitis, skin
rashes, acne, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, iron deficiency anemia, arthritis, ear
infections, asthma, diabetes, auto immune diseases such as: MS, cataracts, ovarian
cancer, and osteoporosis.

• Dairy products are severe mucus producers and place untold strain on respiratory,
digestive and immune systems


• The danger to humans from antibiotics in milk is:
1. Direct toxic effects
2. Some carcinogenic effects
3. May lead to secondary bacterial or yeast infections
4. Damage to liver over long term
5. Antibiotic resistant organisms


• British Medical Journal 1990 stated that a study conducted on 1422 Norway individuals
which drank 2 or more glasses of milk per day had 3.5 times the incidence of lymphatic
cancer.

• Pediatrics, April 1991 stated that colic found (1 in 5) babies can be the result of
antibodies from cow's milk. This can also occur when the mother drinks the cow's milk
and then passes it to her baby via her own breast milk.

• The New England Journal of Medicine 1992 stated that the use of cow's milk can
contribute to juvenile diabetes and auto immune diseases by interrupting the ability of the
pancreas to produce insulin.

• New England Journal of Medicine 1992 stated that Finland has the world's highest
consumption of dairy products and the worlds highest rate of insulin dependent diabetes.

• Dr. Benjamin Spock in 1992 stated to avoid cow's milk for the first 2 years of life and
that human milk was the right choice for babies.

Bye staple milk in diet, hello Almond milk! Especially since the only reason I drink milk is for the calcium and almond milk contains 2x the amount. I'll have to research to see what type of protein almond milk offers.

Ok, I lied. I don't drink it only for the calcium. It's yummy.

Honestly, I will not wipe it out completely. Eating double-stuff Oreos without a large glass of milk is a sin. So much so, I would look (and feel) just like Denver if I ever committed such an unlawful act.

After having this fun conversation and much needed enlightenment, I told Clay that I wanted to be in his public health class. He told me all they did was watch TED videos and discuss them. So, naturally, I scoped them out.

My search led me to a highly interesting question: Can we eat to starve cancer?

Dr. William Li discusses the importance of the nervous system and how microscopic cancers can be maintained through high anti-angiogenesis foods.

The premise is basically this: We all have microscopic cancers embedded in various places within our bodies (Dr. Li includes some interesting statistics). These cancers remain dormant until blood vessels reach them, essentially beginning to "feed" them, which in turn causes them to grow. Being connected by vessels, this creates the perfect environment for the cancer to also be spread to other areas of the body. Angiogenesis is "based on the process our bodies use for blood vessels." Researchers have found fruits, vegetables, and spices that help to control this process. There are certain foods that will help to essentially, "hold back" the blood vessel from reaching the microscopic cancers or other disease causing agents. These types of natural healers are referred to being "anti-angiogenetic."

Some of these food include, but are not limited to:

  • strawberries
  • red wine
  • green tea
  • pineapple
  • soy beans
  • maitake mushrooms
  • licorice
  • tuna
  • parsley
  • turmeric
  • garlic
  • tomato
A larger list is easily viewed in the video.

I encourage you to research related topics. You never know what you will learn.

Now, got eat some anti-angiogenesis fruits and veggies!

Excitedly,
His Side-Kick in Training


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

*Hula~Hoop RUG*

Have any extra t-shirts laying around? If so, try out this fun project from Family Fun!



Grab your old t's, scissors, hula-hoop and a couple hours to create a one-of-a-kind rug...


Go ahead... clean out your closet, recycle and get crafty!

Danielle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything

Wow. What a weekend! Really, my weekend began last Thursday night and is just now slowing down. I can't believe today is already Wednesday...

What did I do during all of this time? Well, I baked 96 petit fours, iced 192 petit fours, baked and crumb-coated four cakes, covered and designed a two-tier graduation cake, made homemade fudge rounds (no joke), helped a precious friend with her son's graduation party and oh, drove to Atlanta for my second interview for a nanny position with the sweetest family ever. I just got back last night.

Did you get all that? I'm sure I forgot something. Here is what my aunt's countertop looked like Thursday night:


Oh, the bottle of Vodka you see there... it's homemade vanilla extract! DELICIOUS! Buy a bottle of Vodka, your choice, gather up some WHOLE vanilla beans (at least 10), pop'em in, and then store the bottle in a dark place for at least 3 weeks before using. It's incredible. Reuse the beans until you suck the life out of'em!

Now, that we have that squared away, let's start with these:

Petit Fours
First time to dive into little cake world. They are super easy to make, delicious, cute, BUT they do take a LOT of time to ice. Just grab a box of regular cake mix, and fix according to directions. The trick of the trade is this.... are you ready.... SIFT the mix before you proceed with the directions. That's right. Make that mix dance right outta the cardboard box. It made the batter SO smooth and a must for these sweet little pillows of yumminess. 

I bet you thought I was going to say "sweet little pillows of heaven." Sorry, kids. That high honor goes to gnocchi in my book. And I actually call them "little pockets of heaven." Mmmmm.....

Any-hoo.. So here are the two amazing recipes I used to ice the petit fours:

White Icing
3 Cups Powdered Sugar (Add more sugar to thicken) - Sifted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Water (Add drops of water to thin, if your icing is too thick)
1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup
Food Coloring (Optional)

Mix it all up and get it to the consistency you need. With petit fours, you want it pretty thick, but thin enough to cover the whole cake when you dip.

Chocolate Icing
1 Stick Butter
7 Tablespoons of Cocoa
2 Cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/2 cup Evaporated Milk

Mix sugar and cocoa together well. Place butter and evaporated milk over a double broiler. Add sugar/cocoa mix. Stir slowly and allow to come to a continuous boil, will slightly thicken. Pull off heat and then add vanilla. Allow to cool slightly and then start dipping your cakes! 

Due to craziness, I forgot to get a final product photo. So, all I can tell you is that the chocolate went the quickest and everyone loved them! Go ahead, get your little cake on!

Remember my "Bear" Bryant cake? Well, I was so happy about a month ago when Mrs. Tammy approached me with yet another request for a cake. This time it was for her daughter's high school graduation. I cannot tell yall how excited I was to make this cake and how much fun it was. I learned a few things from my previous experience, making this one ll the better. 

Here are a few pics of the process:

Starting off with a little inspiration and a rough draft... 

Crumb-coat... Top was vanilla with chocolate icing and bottom as shown.

Throw in some toothpicks and then...

Cover that baby and pop into fridge to chill.

Fondant Time!

Little decoration here and there.

Then, voila!


Few Tips:

  • Always create your own parchment paper circle to line your pan and spray on a light coat of Bakers Joy. Amazing. Last time, I had to work a labor of love to get my cakes out of the pan without tearing. Parchment Paper + Bakers Joy = Perfect Release
  • Duff Fondant is made by Fonadrific. Am I 100% positive of this fact? No. But, pretty darn sure. I emailed the company a few questions about their product, including whether or not they produced Duff's, and they answered every question but that one. Hhhmmmm....
  • You can make a two-tier cake like this using 3 boxes of Duff mix and 2 2-lb containers of fondant, plus a small white. Once again, if you go the Duff route (which is yummy, yet expensive) use coupons! As long as the barcode numbers are not the same, you an use two 40% coupons at the same time.
  • The "H" is made with gum-paste. Yucky stuff, but works well for decorative pieces. 
  • Get a cool twirly thing like I have. They make icing and decorating so much fun! Buy at Michael's for $10 with a coupon.
  • Use a little water on your fingers to attach fondant circles.


Have any questions? Feel free to ask. I'm not a pro by any means, but am learning along the way. In that same breath, if you have any suggestions, shout those out also!

Helping with the graduation party was a blast. Here is an refreshing quick drink you can whip up anytime you have company over: a can of 5 Alive + a bottle of Fresca soda. Thanks Mrs. Leanne! One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to make her killer herbal teas.

I guess, now is the part where I get to the interview.... OH, wait!

Homemade Fudge Rounds! Ok, go back to the top of this post, click the link, go get the ingredients, and then come home immediately and make these! I grew up on LIttle Debbie, sadly... and these were my favorite! Right up there with Oatmeal Cookies and StarCrunch. Now, I am determined to create my own Oatmeal Cookie Recipe. Just wait. You'll see it here one day! 

Hopefully, you won't see my waistline returning to my Little Debbie Days!

All, I really want to share about the nanny opportunity is that going through this process has made me really hold tight to the truths I know to be true. Yesterday, before my second interview, Clay and I were sitting by the river and I saw a squirrel right in front of us scrounging for food, yet finding it every where he went. Matthew 6:26 popped right into my head, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Chills filled my arms (in 90 degree weather) and I began to cry tears of joy, feeling God's love right then and there. I am always amazed at how intimately He knows our hearts and sends sweet whispers to us even when our minds are going crazy. Looking out at the beauty and life surrounding me at that moment, calmed me like nothing else. I rejoice in serving such an amazing God! I can already tell that the Chattahoochee River and I are going to share a lot of time and memories together. Who knew a river would be such a wonderful gift of solitude...

Once, I get a job in Atlanta, Clay and I will be able to begin a whole new chapter of our life together. I am trusting in God's providence and submitting this life to Him daily. 

It has to be daily. 

Here are a few verses that keep me going:

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Matthew 6:27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Goodnight, Friends.

Danielle

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Poor Mac

Dear Friends,

Mac is sick today. He had an unexpected friend visit him last night named MacProtector. As soon as she showed up, I knew trouble entered the room. At first she seemed sweet and innocent, but then in an instant, her claws came out and shaddiness overtook her beauty.  Yeah... one of those. I became quite confused because Macs are not suppose to have friends like her. They are suppose to be extra strong and immune to the likes of sweet-talking wanna-bes, but it was too late. She seduced Mac so fast, he didn't know what hit him. Now, Mac must go to Dr. Peach.

Sally, tell'em how I feel...



Yes, Mac.... it was never suppose to be this way. Don't worry, Dr. Peach will hopefully have you feeling better this afternoon. You too, will be able to hit your own Weezer and smile again.

Mamma is here,
Danielle


UPDATE:

Mac is BETTER!! I called Dr. Peach and asked if I needed to bring the computer in or just follow the directions for removal on a website I found. He said it was a pretty easy removal and talked me through it, which linked up perfectly with the directions I found online. If you ever get bombarded with MacProtector, DO NOT use your credit card and remove it asap. Follow these directions and your Mac will feel better too.

http://www.fixkb.com/2011/05/remove-mac-protector.html

Reading the comments, this is a pretty common pest right now. Don't lose sleep, like I did. Easy fix! :) Make sure you disable Automatic File opening in Safari to prevent things like this from happening again.

Best comment: "I wish 8 stomach viruses on whoever created that crap." I agree.

Monday, April 25, 2011

DIY Food Display Stand

Once again, I'm not too sure where I originally saw this idea (blogger addiction confessed)... but when I saw it, I knew immediately I had to make my own!

I fell in love with these plates at Target this week and decided to give'em a shot. The best part about buying these types of plates is that they are food safe. If you use the awesome tin plates (located in the wedding section) at Dollar Tree, they are NOT food safe. Especially, if you get creative and spray paint them with fantastic acrylics and use a sealant. But, they are great otherwise. 

FIY: Please forgive the craziness of these pictures. You will see, well... pictures within pictures, randomness, dust, and maybe a little bit of me in the mirror. Hence, the one below... Hello, legs. Who says you need a craft table to be crafty? Just grab your closest flat surface, dust or no dust, and create!


What you WILL get at Dollar Tree: 
Candle Holders (# depends on how many tiers you want)
Fix-All Adhesive


Your actual plates can come from anywhere... even your home. Have any cute summer or vintage plates you have left from an old set tucked away? Bring'em out and get creative! These are wonderful gifts and highly personalize-able. <-- No, I did not make that up. 


When using the glue, you apply to both surfaces, wait 10 minutes and then stick together. Then, it is suppose to rest for at least 24 hrs before handling. Ok, so a little patience is also required... but it's worth it.


You can create single tiers, such as these...


Or stack them babies up! 


Keep your eye out for other candle holders... I found this one, below, for $2.99 at Cato. Yes, Cato. I had no idea. 

Oh, and the beautiful lady to the left of the holder, you can thank her for the Strawberry cake recipe/cupcake inspiration. She will be quite flattered. 


The 2-tier is actually one of her birthday gifts and the one below is going to reside in the Jones Home. Don't worry... she won't see this in time to ruin the surprise. 


Store bought 2-Tier Display at Target: $16.99
DIY: $9.00

Creative DIY savings. Nothing compares.

No. Nothing.

Have Fun,
Danielle

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes!

Ever since I was a child, my grandma would always ask my brother and I which kind of cake we wanted her to make. Without a doubt, it was always her Strawberry Cake. 

A few weeks ago, I decided to give her cake a shot in a cupcake and try a new topper I found on another blog (sorry, I don't remember which one or I could give credit where it is due). 

They turned out so cute (and yummy)! 


Here's to you grandma...


Cupcake Ingredients:
Box Strawberry Cake Mix (& fixings according to box)
1 Large Strawberry Jello - The Secret Weapon
1 Can Condensed Milk

Buttercream Frosting (the BEST): SavorySweetLife

In the words of Paula Deen, this recipe is "Stupid Easy." You add the jello mix to cake mix and then follow the directions on the cake mix box, bake and cool.




Make sure you do not fill your liners more than 2/3 full or they will look like red mushrooms instead of cupcakes. Trust me... experience here.


Ok, here's the thing. Because the Pillsbury cake mix has pudding in it, the mix becomes a little heavy with the Jello added and they will drop in the center a little. Personally, I like this. Especially when you bite into it and see the icing in the middle. You could even fill it with a yummy cream and then ice it on top. You just have to take the dip into account when you buy or make your icing. If you use the buttercream icing recipe from Savory Life (which is imperative because it is perfect), you have to double it because it only covers a dozen cupcakes, dip or not. 

If you decide to try this in cake form, use another mix like Duncan Hines and you do not have to worry about the top falling. 

After your cupcakes have slightly cooled, take a toothpick, poke holes in the tops and spoon about a tablespoon of condensed milk on top. In the picture below you can see how the cupcakes in the back have soaked it up. When you do this, you want the cupcakes to be warm, not hot. Then, store in the fridge for at least an hour before you ice.


You can leave the cupcakes at this point or...


Have some FUN! 
Here's what'cha need:


It's all about the MINI! 
Mini M&M's, Mini Reeses, and Two Sized Sprinkles.

Pipe a small amount of icing on the Reeses, add your small sprinkles, and top with a red M&M. Let me tell you now... be ready to hunt for those little candy coated cherry wanna-be chocolates. I only needed 6 and I had to pour out 3/4 of the tube to get them. 

Add your larger sprinkles to your cupcakes and the gently place your "mini" cupcake on top. Your done!


Store these puppies in the fridge and pull out about 20 minutes before serving. Have fun and enjoy!

Cheers to Tradition,
Danielle

Monday, March 21, 2011

CYO Fabric Coasters

Have you ever seen a beautiful fabric that you wanted to display somewhere in your home, yet didn't have a place to add another pillow, curtain, or slip cover? Well, how about coasters? Here is a simple Create Your Own (CYO) coaster project that will catch anyone's attention....



You will need:
4- 3 1/2 inch Fabric Squares (I recommend using good quality fabric scissors, like Gingher, to prevent fraying)
4 Tiles (I purchase mine at Lowes, but you can find them at various hardware stores)
Cork (may be rolled, in sheets, or you can even use felt squares or circles)
Hot Glue Gun
Mod Podge (your BFF in the craft world; I use gloss)
Acrylic Waterproof Sealant (I use Krylon Crystal Clear spray; a brush on application may also be used)
Sponge Brush

Step 1
Because the bottom of your tiles look like this...


you MUST protect your furniture using cork or adhesive felt. Some tiles are perfectly smooth on the bottom, but you still want to add protection. Gotta keep the furniture pretty!

If you buy cork in bulk (roll or sheets) you have to cut your own squares. No biggie. I place the tile on the cork and cut around it to make a perfect square for the tile. Make sure you use thin cork versus overly think because it will fall apart when you cut it. 



Step 2
Use the hot glue to bind the cork to the bottom of the tile. Work in right angles so that the glue does not have a chance to dry. Also, when you lay the cork down, you want it to be "bending" towards the tile, not away. So, if you were to lay the cork on the tile, it should make a "tunnel," not a "ditch." 


Once you have your cork on, or felt... it will look like this...


If you want a more natural look, maybe for an outside patio, you could stop here. But, we want pretty. Let's get pretty.

Step 3
Line your tiles "four square" and add one layer of Mod Podge, using your sponge brush. Just slap it on. I go in a clockwise direction so that I know every tile has had the same amount of time to dry between coats. By the time you finish, you can go ahead and begin to add your fabric. In the same rotation you chose before, place your fabric onto the tile and LIGHTLY press/rub the fabric in to set it into the Mod Podge. Keep an eye out for bubbles. Be careful around the edges because you do not want to cause fraying... me no likey fray.



Note: I cut out a 3 1/2 inch square out of cardboard and use that as my template when I cut my fabric. Place it in the back of the fabric and with a pencil, trace the square and then cut it out. Less stress is a good thing. "Work smart, not hard."

Step 4
Now, enters patience and a good opportunity for you to muli-task. Repeat Step 3, adding a layer of Mr. Podge on each tile and then walk away. Allow it to dry 15-20 minutes. Use a sweeping motion in the middle of the fabric, but "blot" the edges and reinforce the bond. Sometimes the edges need a little extra encouragement. As always, remember their sensitivity. If they get upset, it's ugly. Trust me.


Step 5
Using your finger, gently rub over the fabric to work out any bubbles that may have come up and to make sure your fabric is as snug as a bug between the tile and Mr. Podge. Remember... edges. You can usually figure out which way the grain of the fabric is going, so work with it rather than against it. P.S.-Don't worry about having "too much" podge on b/c it dries clear. Just run your brush back over your finger marks to smooth it out.



Step 6
Repeat Step 4. Yes, one more coat. You want your fabric to be protected, right? Walk away and come back in 30 minutes.

Step 7
Bring your tiles outside on the concrete or place them on a protected surface and give them a good dose of the acrylic sealant. That's it! Allow to dry a good 2 hours before you wrap it up as a gift or place it on your coffee table. Welcome shiny and beautiful!


Sometimes, no matter how hard you try... a fray will show its face.
Imperfections are the beauty marks of being homemade.
Other options: scrapbook paper instead of fabric, matte vs. gloss, colored tile, photos, etc.

Fabulous Idea for those with Kiddos: Take a piece of art work your child has drawn/painted/colored, cut it into fours and when the coasters are together, you see the whole picture.

Men: Find out their favorite sport or professional team and find a coordinating fabric.

I love creating these with four different, yet beautifully coordinated fabrics. My aunt chose these two fabrics for her living room and they work perfect. The best part about this project is the versatility. Being inexpensive is a great perk too.

Happy Creating!
Danielle

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sweetness in Age

by skippy0723


"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16

PW is having another photography contest and the theme is "beauty." I have had the pleasure of enjoying some incredible photos this week. Today in particular. 

As soon as I laid my eyes on this picture, my left hand went to my chest, I gasped (soon wondering if anyone heard me), and tears filled my eyes instantly. Stunning. Absolutely beautiful and I have no clue who this woman is. You simply must click on the picture to see the beauty and calmness within her soul up close. Where do I see this, you say? Her eyes. Her precious smile. 

Clay called me while I was admiring this photograph and I cried even more when I was trying to explain how it touched my heart. He probably thought I was a nut. 

Maybe I am. If I were, I would be a Circus Peanut. 

Why?

Why not? It's a marshmallow disguised as a nut. Wouldn't you rather look like a nut than actually be one?

Tangent. Sorry. As I stared into this woman's eyes, 2 Corinthians 4:16 popped into my head. Outwardly, she is very fragile, old and wrinkled. Yet, when you look into her eyes, you see depth, wisdom, humbleness, joy, and most of all, perseverance. She is still there, brimming with life even though her body may not be able to keep up as it did before. People in this stage of life are a special gift to anyone who is willing to slow down and listen. Oh, the stories she could share!

The dynamics of this photograph are unbelievable to me. She reminds me of heaven. Do you see it?

Sometimes, I don't think I fully understand how deep God's love is for us. 


To me, this picture is a sweet reminder...

Keep'em coming PW!

C.P.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Day A Solider Lived



Heavenly Father,

What can I say, other than "Thank You?" How can I do anything else but pour my heart out to you in constant gratitude? A year ago today, you kept this world from taking my husband. You surrounded him with angels and blessed our testimony with a miracle. You gave him the wisdom to wear his bullet proof gear when the other guys looked upon this routine with eyes of invincibility. Without it, the large pieces of shrapnel, now sealed tight in a jar, would have penetrated his chest and killed him instantly. You allowed pieces to graze the top of his helmet, surrounding him left and right. You comforted his fall with minor injuries, yet allowed hundreds, possibly thousands of tiny pieces to enter his arm and cheek. You left scars that will never let us forget the day you spoke loudly, "You are mine and I have great plans for you." Allow us to never forget the emotions that came and went during this time. Allow us to speak of your grace and mercy to others and testify of your Mighty Hand for years to come. Just as you spoke the world into motion, I believe you spoke into motion every piece of metal that was aimed directly at Clay. You provided swift hands and feet to the men around him. Father, my words are so futile to what is felt in my heart. Thank you for allowing us to still dream and walk together as husband and wife. Thank you for saving a husband, brother, son, best friend, and the future father to our children. I can't imagine growing old with anyone else besides him. Thank you for our love, Father. More than that, thank you for first loving us.  May the 14th of March be a special day of remembrance for the rest of our lives, not only for your saving grace, but also in gratitude to all of the families who have, are, and will sacrifice for the freedoms we have...

Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Starbucks, my friend.

Dear Starbucks,

Thank you for being so good to me this week. Sunday you gave me my favorite Tall Non-Fat Latte with 1 pump of Peppermint for FREE! Reason? Because the sweet lady at the window said that your computers were acting "wacky" and handed me back my gift card. When I offered to pay cash, she kindly waved her hand at me and said with a smile, "Don't worry about it." I was amazed. 

Your drive-thru this morning added icing to the cake you gave me on Sunday. I handed, yet another sweet lady, my gift card and she said that charging for 1 pump of peppermint was "ridiculous," so there was no up charge. I totally agree with her and thats why my card is registered. Therefore, I'm not charged for flavor shots. But, I appreciated her precious gesture of saving me a couple Washingtons. She hands me my latte with a smile, I drive off and then realized...whoa, wait a miniute.. I have a grande.

I am not a grande kind of gal. I like the amount of milk in the tall and 1 shot of espresso. It's perfect. Everything is doubled when you size up. Two shots of espresso? Not since my college exam week days. Wow, I am saying that like I am so old. Only two years ago. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Sorry for the digression, it's the second shot. Anyway... I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your kindness this week and the amazing people you have hired to take my money at the window in exchange for a delicious pick-me-up.

P.S.- I will meet you again tomorrow with a dear friend of mine. Will you put one of those sweet window ladies at the front register around noon? I know you won't let me down, and, oh...totally digging the mermaid's new style!

Thanks, friend.

Note to All: Addicted to Starbucks? No. Busy week? Yes. Do I do this all the time? No. Will it happen again? Maybe.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Adventure Fit for Two in Love

I was pumped for TWO weeks straight about cooking a Valentines dinner for my sweet hubby Friday night. Little excessive, maybe... but I was cooking in OUR apartment with OUR tools for MY husband. Once again, little excessive. Sorry, I can't help myself.

The plan: Clay goes to class and I go to the nearest Kroger. I come home, start cooking. Clay comes home, SURPRISE!

The menu: Baked chicken over PW's mashed potatoes, topped with goat cheese and a sun-dried tomato butter sauce with a side of Espinaca (A spinach recipe I have kept hidden for a few years. It's from Abuelos and it's his fav.)

Well, the day started off like any other. Clay got ready for school and left, while I got ready and focused for a major grocery run. Ok, this is a first... just play along.

I got in my car, ready to take on a new adventure, pulled out of the apt complex to the light, put on my blinker, and waited patiently for the light to change. And waited. Traffic was moving very nicely from the other three sides of this square of changing lights, but mine was not. Why me? Was I not on the "line?" Did I drive up at a bad time?

Not too sure of anything other than the fact that by now, the light had skipped over me THREE times! I had to do something. I called Clay. We discussed the situation and during our convo, the light skipped me a FOURTH time. That was it. I told Clay I was going for it. I was going to make my left hand turn green light or no green light. As I was pulling out into the middle of the intersection, feeling like a just told those traffic lights who the new boss of Marietta was, Clay quickly interjects, "Watch out for the cameras!"

If I were in Fred Flinstones car, my heart would have hit the pavement, it sunk so fast. The traffic lights just smacked me in the face and made me beg for mercy.

At this point, Clay so desperately tried to reassure me that the cameras were probably CCTV cameras and not ticketing ones. I clung to what little hope I had left in me and then all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I left my entire shopping list at the apartment!

Strike 2!

So, I turned back around, waited at yet another light..... and SAT there THROUGH a light change because I looked down for TWO seconds, praying for patience I'm sure.

Strike 3, I'm out of the game.

I was already over the day and I get a call-back from Clay. He said his class was cancelled and that he was on his way back. So, I reassessed the plan and decided that it would be a lot more fun to go shopping with Clay and cook the dinner together. We did and had a fantastic time. I loved every moment of it and thank the Lord for always knowing the bigger picture. If I wasn't stuck at the light, hadn't forgotten my list, and had a blonde moment.... I would have already been at the grocery store without Clay. This was a great reminder of the Lord knowing what is best for me and pushing me through, even when I fail and get hung up in the small stuff. He had a wonderful evening planned and wanted to bless Clay and I through it. Shopping and cooking together that night was such a testimony to how much we have grown together and something I will forever cherish.


Delish!
Massive Slice of Heaven from Marietta Diner... one of our new favs

BTW... PW's mashed potatoes were amazing!!!! She mixes in cream cheese, 1/2 & 1/2, Lawry's seasoned salt, and lots of butta to 5lbs of Yukon Gold nuggets of goodness!

Our Valentines weekend ended Sat night because Sunday is a study day for my hard worker. Or so I thought.

I was at work yesterday and received a call to come downstairs for a delivery. I made my way down, opened the door, and the first thing I saw was a gy-normous helium heart balloon, followed by flowers and a gift! My first thought was, "How is this going to fit in my little car?" As I am holding the balloon expressing this thought to my co-workers, I am surprised by tight hug and kiss to my neck. Surprise, Clay! He drove down to personally deliver his precious gifts and take me out to dinner! I can't help but have a smile on my face while sharing this with the world. I am incredibly blessed to have such an amazing husband!


When we got home from the church, we decided to have a little fun with Hugo....

Awe... I love you too!
I love the expression on his face..... he wore that balloon with honor!
Run Hugo Run! 
Phew! Nice catch Clay!
Hugo's attempt to escape via air reminded me of this...



I received UP (AMAZING), Pixar short films, and the closest I will ever get to biting into a Willy Wonka gummy bear! 

Hold onto your gummies kids! If you were bam-bazzled by my palm-held gummy, your gonna want to see this: 

Hilarious!

On a more serious note:

To My Carl,

I couldn't have dreamed of a better best friend to spend the rest of my life with. I cherish you more and more with every breath I take and consider you my greatest treasure on earth. The Lord has used you in so many ways and I am forever grateful to Him for allowing you to be the biggest inspiration in mine. 

I can't wait to share moments like this:




Love,
Your Ellie